The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World published by Heyne in Germany in 1974. Karel Thole’s artwork for this series always has a surreal edge to it and, in my view, a 1960s feel to it.
I like these German covers – others have appeared in previous posts – but I wonder how they would have affected my view of the character and the stories if they had been the first covers I had encountered… As I’ve said before, the Peter Elson cover from the Sphere UK edition was the first image of the Rat for me, and I’m sure it coloured the way I imagined the character.
Over the past twenty-odd posts we’ve had a variety of Rat covers from different parts of the world, most very different from each other. And, obviously, the non-English editions have all been translated by different people into their respective languages. But despite all that, there’s some essential element that gets carried through, and keeps these stories in print around the world – more than fifty years after the first story was published.
If I knew what that essential element was, I’d be writing best-selling novels instead of blogs, but if I was to hazard an opinion I’d say the Rat’s popularity is, at least in part, the result of three factors:
(i) Jim diGriz is a character – by which I mean, he’s a fictional person with a life and a personality, rather than just someone who makes the plot happen.
(ii) Jim is a rebel, he gives rules and beauracracy the finger, but at the same time he has a conscience; he’s an individual with a sense of social responsibility. Not a bad role model, I’d say.
(iii) Harry Harrison knows how to tell a damn good story and have fun with it.